New Coventry City manager Russell Slade says he is under no illusions about the tough task ahead to avoid relegation on a low budget – amid multi-party political and commercial disputes surrounding the club.
Speaking exclusively with the Coventry Observer ahead of today’s press conference to welcome him, the experienced 56-year-old former Charlton Athletic, Cardiff City and Leyton Orient boss indicated he is coming into the job with eyes wide open.
He comes with a good reputation for working on a shoestring budget in League One after years of competing for promotion with Orient up to 2014, where he won League One manager of the year awards despite never buying a player and relying on loans.
He also has experience of clubs mired in protests by some fans and fans’ groups, after encountering demonstrations at Charlton against their owners, where he lasted just months this year.
His deal initially lasts until the end of this season and the club says he will be working with the same budget for players of between £2million and £2.5million going in to the January transfer window, for which it is claimed some money has been held back.
The budget is thought to be in the lower half for League One with the club under parent company Sisu seeking to continue the process of balancing the books after years of annual losses – without a stadium and commercial revenues and following the council’s Ricoh Arena sale to Wasps.
The Sky Blues are second from bottom of League One after six straight defeats and a second-round FA Cup exit at Cambridge United under departing caretaker manager Mark Venus, who replaced Tony Mowbray when he resigned in September after 10 League games without a win.
Slade told us: “The important thing is I can only control the controllables. My sole focus is to get the team and club away from the bottom of the table.
“It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be an absolute battle. We haven’t a second to waste. That’s what I’ve told the players. We have 19 weeks left.
“I’ve worked with tough budgets before. It’s not always all about the money. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be unsuccessful. The numbers are what they are. We’re not in a position to be making excuses.
“We have to be positive and have a positive attitude. Every day the players wake up they have a choice to wake up with a positive attitude if they want to.
“I’ve only been here a few seconds but it’s not a job that can be achieved on my own. It needs everybody to be helping. People have already welcomed me coming in.
“I’ve been at clubs before where there have been protests and even where the club changed the colour of the shirt (Cardiff). I’m aware of issues many clubs have. We’re not in isolation at Coventry. I can only control the controllables.
“The January window is coming up. We have one bite at that to get recruitment right. Expect some wheeling and dealing to some extent.
“The style of play is partly decided by the type of players here. As a manager you have to be adaptable. Hopefully there will be things to improve us defensively and in all areas of the pitch. We have to be resilient at the back.”
Asked whether he would look to bring in his own assistant, with his former assistant Kevin Nugent still at Charlton, he said he would look to have those discussions going forward.
Asked about the difficulties of clubs that do not have their own stadium he said: “It’s an unusual situation, but it is what it is. I can’t control that.
“Hopefully at some stage we’ll have a home we can call a home.”
Asked about why he has come to Coventry, he told us: “Coventry has a fantastic tradition. Everybody should respect the tradition and what a great club it is. It is not in a position where it wants to be at the moment. I get that and everybody gets that. Let’s hope we can move forward from the position we’re in.
“On the playing side I think technically we’re strong. Against Charlton they had more possession but lost 3-0. So it’s about scoring goals and stopping goals.
“I’ll be here until the end of the season and then I’ll have a look beyond that. My sole focus is to keep the club up. Looking beyond that is premature.”